Sauropods stomping theropods: a much neglected theme in palaeo-art

March 6, 2011

Needless to say, one of the things I love most about Paco’s Brontomerus artwork is that it’s a rare and welcome example of the much neglected Sauropods Stomping Theropods school of palaeo-art.

When I reviewed the examples I know of, I was a bit disappointed to find that they number only five.  Here they are, in chronological order.

First, we have this gorgeous sketch by Mark Hallett, showing Jobaria (here credited as “unnamed camarasaurid”) quite literally stomping on Afrovenator:

To the best of my knowledge, this has never actually been published — I found it on Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings, in the interview with Hallett.  Mark tells me that this was a concept sketch of possible main art for Paul Sereno’s North African dinosaur article, Africa’s Dinosaur Castaways in the June 1996 issue of National Geographic (Sereno 1996) — three years before Jobaria was described[1] (Sereno et al. 1999); but for some inexplicable reason, it wasn’t used.

It seems incredible to think that there was no published, or even completed but unpublished, sauropod-stomping-theropod art before the mid-1990s, but I’ve not yet found any.  I thought that Bakker might have come up with something in The Dinosaur Heresies (Bakker 1986) or The Bite of the Bronto (Bakker 1994); but I flipped through both and I don’t see anything relevant.  Anyone know of anything earlier?

The next entry on my list is Luis Rey’s striking Astrodon, carrying away a raptor that bit off more than it could chew.

This appeared in Tom Holtz’s outstanding encyclopedia (Holtz 2007), which I highly recommend for every interested layman, including but not limited to bright kids.  The image also turned up, with Luis’s permission, in the publicity for Xenoposeidon — notably in The Sun, one of Britain’s most downmarket, lowest-common-denominator tabloids, where it was a pleasant surprise indeed.

I just love the expression on the raptor’s face.  He’s going HOLY CRAP!, and his buddies are all like, Hey, dude, c’mon, we were only playing!  But Astrodon‘s all, Nuh-uh, you started this, I’m going to finish it.

Next up, and a year, later, we have this moody just-going-about-my-business Camamasaurus, squishing theropod eggs, nests and babies in a casual sort of way, as though he’s saying “Well, you should have got out of my way”:

As it happens, this one was done for me, by Mark Witton.  It was intended as an illustration for a “Fossils Explained” article that I was going to do for Geology Today on the subject of (get ready for a big surprise): sauropods.  In fact, I am still going to do it.  But since it’s been two and a bit years since I got the go-ahead from the editor, I’m hardly in a position to complain that Mark gave the image to Dave Martill and Darren when they suddenly needed artwork to publicise the findings of their Moroccan expedition.  (Since then, the Mail seems to have re-used this picture pretty much every time they have a story about dinosaurs — even when that story is complete and utter crap.)

I don’t mind too much about this Witton original being whisked away from me, because shortly afterwards Mark went on to provide me with a much better piece — the beautifully wistful Diplodocus herd scene that we used in the publicity for our neck-posture paper.

And, amazingly, that brings us up to date.  The next relevant artwork that I know of was Paco’s glorious Brontomerus life restoration, which you’ve already read all about.  Just to vary things a bit, this is the second of the two renders — the one that wasn’t in the paper itself:

So is that the end of the story for now?  Happily, not quite.  Emily Willoughby produced this alternative Brontomerus restoration on the very day the paper came out!

I’m not going to claim that this is close to the quality of the other four pieces in this article, but you have to admire the speed of the work.  Emily wrote most of the initial Wikipedia entry for Brontomerus, and produced this picture to illustrate it.  At first when I saw this, I thought Emily had misunderstood the paper as indicating powerful retractors, so that the drawing had Brontomerus kicking backwards like a horse. But when I looked closely I realised it’s kicking outwards, thanks to the enlarged abductors. Neat.

A question and a challenge

I’d like to end this post with a question and a challenge.  First, the question: what other pieces of palaeoart have I missed that feature sauropods handing theropods their arses?  There have to be others — right?

And the challenge: I’d love it if those of you who are artists were to fix this terrible hole in the fabric of reality?  I’d love to see new and awesome art on the timeless theme of sauropods stomping theropods.  How about it?  If any of you have influence with the Art Evolved people, you might try seeing whether you can get them to join in the challenge.  It would be awesome to see a whole new crop of these pieces!


  • Bakker, Robert T.  1986.  The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking The Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction.  Morrow, New York.  481 pages.
  • Bakker, Robert T.  1994.  The Bite of the Bronto.  Earth 3 (6): 26-35.
  • Holtz, Thomas R., Jr., and Luis V. Rey.  2007.  Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages. Random House, New York.  432 pages.
  • Sereno, Paul C.  1996.  Africa’s dinosaur castaways.  National Geographic 189(6):106-119.
  • Sereno, Paul C., Allison L. Beck, Didier. B. Dutheil, Hans C. E. Larsson, Gabrielle. H. Lyon, Bourahima Moussa, Rudyard W. Sadleir, Christian A. Sidor, David J. Varricchio, Gregory P. Wilson and Jeffrey A. Wilson.  1999.  Cretaceous Sauropods from the Sahara and the Uneven Rate of Skeletal Evolution Among Dinosaurs.  Science 282:1342-1347.


[1] If you want to call it that.

41 Responses to “Sauropods stomping theropods: a much neglected theme in palaeo-art”

  1. I seem to recall — vaguely — that Bakker once proposed, in a popular article (in the old Earth magazine, I think) that Morrison Formation sauropods defended themselves by picking up theropods with their teeth and tossing them away. Does anyone else remember this and (if I’m remembering correctly!) know the source?

  2. dmaas Says:

    That sounds like a challenge! If I get my computer working again I’ll call out the theme on the Friday speedpaint challenge.
    Do we get crits for our efforts?

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    Jerry, you’re referring to the very same Bite of the Bronto article that I mentioned above.

  4. Warren B. Says:

    I would like to humbly submit this simple doodle, rendered on finest lined paper by myself, some years ago.

    Needless to say, Paco’s *Brontomerus* restoration raised my eyebrows and pleased me no end.

  5. Rob Taylor Says:

    Not sure that this one qualifies as it’s clearly not gonna end well for the ‘pod, but I recalled this earlier image by Luis Rey that shows an Astrodon hoisting an attacker into the air by its tail:

  6. Rob Taylor Says:

    See also this Todd Marshall image of Shunosaurus delivering a pretty good whack with its tail:

  7. Rob Taylor Says:

    … and Mark Hallett’s similarly-themed “Direct Hit.”

  8. Jordan Says:

    Let’s not forget the infamous Gurche painting of Barosaurus stomping Allosaurus.

  9. Nima Says:

    I’m all for doing this “sauropods go to town” themed art as an ArtEvolved project. I’ll contact Peter and Craig over at AE and see what we can whip up!

    I’ve done some sauropods stomping theropods before but these were WAY back in the day when my art just plain sucked (think 2nd grade, with an overly big-headed Allosaurus literally sinking into the earth after an oddly flounder-eyed brachiosaurus stomped it below sea level with reverse-jointed arms).

    I’d say it’s definitely time to revisit the whole Brachiosaurus stomping Allosaurus theme. Maybe even a rearing Brachiosaurus. BTW as for biting the theropods, Giraffatitan had a pretty big head and mouth loaded with some downright scary-huge teeth. Even though other parts of the skull look pretty delicate, the jaws are pretty sturdy and the teeth look like railroad spikes or bodkin arrowheads. It’s funny how people get so surprised to see such a big head when they’ve heard it’s so “tiny” in book and on TV.

  10. Albertonykus Says:

    One by Brad McFeeters, a sauropod about to eat a theropod!

    Incidentally, I’ve drawn a few cartoons of another dinosaur group getting their much needed revenge on theropods, ornithopods!

  11. dmaas Says:

    Hi Nima, I called out a speedpaint at the site. We can use that for initial ideas that can then get worked out further.
    Brachiosaurus vs Allosaur sounds good, but I’ve seen some convincing arguments from Heinrich Mallison that Brachiosaurs couldn’t rear- whereas Diplodocus could.

    Wow, it’s fantastic seeing Rey’s earlier work. I really do prefer it over the later stuff.

  12. David Hone Says:

    There’s a full life sized model of a Shunosaurus battering a Gasosaurs with it’s tail club in the Fukui Museum. Got no photos though, sorry. They also have a large screen running an animation of the same thing.

  13. There much to say about untraditional agonization in art, usually as it only tends to accompany certain paleo works, and is often added as an afterthought. In some cases, a few years or decades down the road, someone will reverse a typical opinion (as in the Fighting Dinosaurs, GI 100/24 and GI 100/25), in which the “aggressor” is reversed in the pair. This happens, I think, a bit more with ornithischians than it does with sauropods, largely because of the issue that tends to accompany giant animals (immunity to predation, as an hypothesis). Plus, predation marks on sauropod remains, or instances of sauropod-predator associations, are equally rare, unlike with ornithischians. I challenge anyone to find a hadrosaur stomping a tyrannosaurid.

  14. dmaas Says:

    Here’s a particularly clever sauropod who preferred to do away with those pesty theropods via traps left behind in bog:

  15. Darren Naish Says:

    Mark Hallett’s ‘shunosaur whacks yangchuanosaur’ has of course been published in Czerkas & Czerkas’s Dinosaurs: A Global View, and sauropods rearing up to beat on theropods have been produced by John Sibbick and for David Lambert’s Collins Guide to Dinosaurs (where the theropod is about to be squished under the sauropod’s full weight). As for pics accompanying that Moroccan expedition, I wasn’t exactly involved in any promotion in the media, so it’s not fair to imply that I participated in the use of Mark’s image (you’d need to talk to Dave and Mark). There are also a few highly accurate, rigorously researched pictures of theropods getting cleaved neatly in half by supersonic sauropod tails… they haven’t yet made it into the published literature so far as I know.

  16. Darren Naish Says:

    Oh – and have you read Bakker’s article ‘Bite of the Bronto’, from Earth magazine? There’s a bit in the story where a sauropod picks a theropod up and throws it clean through the air.

  17. Stu Pond Says:

    David Krentz does a tutorial on sketching a sauropod pushing (read ‘stomping on’) a theropod in his excellent Gnomon DVD on sketching dinosaurs.

    I intended to do a review of this DVD on my own blog but here’s the URL in the meantime:

  18. I don’t understand…since when does your food hurt you??? You uppity archosaur equality types need to get back in line IMO!

  19. Albertonykus Says:

    No tyrannosaurid-stomping hadrosaurs, but Luis Rey has a painting of some Parasaurolophus chasing off a Daspletosaurus:

  20. mattvr Says:

    There was a pretty big phase in paleo illustration with Sauropods smacking things down with their tails. Seems to have gone out of vogue, at least in the mainstream.

  21. Albertonykus Says:

    Can’t believe I almost forgot the original inspiration for my deinonychosaur-stomping ornithopod cartoons:

    I just remembered another Luis Rey painting (also in the encyclopedia) where a Supersaurus is about to step on a Torvosaurus.

  22. Warren B. Says:

    I was thinking of joining in the Art Evolved challenge, but I’ll have to tread carefully or GSP’ll hold me up by the ankles and shake the change from my pockets.

  23. Brian Says:

    To be honest with you, I only like the *Jobaria* and the camarasaur-stomping-theropod-eggs illustration. All the others look terrible to me, and that’s including the *Brontomerus* one, which I really think looks like the bad CGI reconstructions you see on TV. Sorry!
    I must be the one ‘in the wrong’ here, since everybody else seems to adore the pics.

  24. Justin Says:

    I have Garry’s Mod and the dinosaur model pack for it, and would like to give back to you guys, however poorly.

    That’s supposedly a juvenile diploducus vs. Sue. given the limitations of the medium, I figured I’d go all-out on the pose. It’s best viewed with this as background music:

  25. Here’s a kind of cartoony picture I’ve seen:

    It’s probably not accurate to show a sauropod taking out theropods this way, but it’s still funny.

  26. Mike Taylor Says:

    Jonathan, love it! Do you have any idea where it’s from, who it’s by, etc.?

  27. It’s by Emily Willoughby, the same person who drew the Brontomerus picture for Wikipedia.

    In addition to regular paleoart, she often draws dinosaur pictures that are funny like this. I like her humorous pictures a lot also, but you don’t mind the lack of accuracy?

  28. Mathew Wedel Says:

    I like her humorous pictures a lot also, but you don’t mind the lack of accuracy?

    C’mon, dude, we named our new animal “thunder thighs”. This would be a joyless endeavor if we couldn’t laugh about it now and then.

  29. Tim Morris Says:

    I remember that in the kid’s magazine serial “Dinosaurs”, there was once a comic that portrayed an archeopteryx being inadvertently stepped on and crushed by a sauropod’s foot.

  30. […] video!) called Home Sweet Brachiosaurus.Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week for their part posits Sauropods stomping theropods: a much neglected theme in palaeo-art. CreationismIf you’re in the mood for a chuckle, Creationism is always there for you. […]

  31. […] this illustration for some time. Seeing Mike Taylor’s collection of illustrations featuring sauropods smashing theropods on SV-POW reminded […]

  32. brian engh Says:

    here’s another one! SV-POW inspired!

    thanks for the science. this thread has so much good dino-damage in it!


  33. […] 6, 2011 A month ago, I posted an article containing all the examples known to me of that sadly neglected palaeo-art theme, Sauropods […]

  34. […] animation looks absolutely top notch.  Fighting Cryolophosaurus, sauropods using their whip tails to wail on theropods, and more, all gorgeously animated. Really, it’s about time. After seeing so many […]

  35. Adam Fuller Says:

    So that’s how flight evolved! Those therapods needed to survive the fall after being tossed through the air by sauropods!

  36. […] Sauropods stomping theropods: a much neglected theme in palaeo-art […]

  37. […] Sauropods stomping theropods: a much neglected theme in palaeo-art […]

  38. some random dude Says:

    are you sure theropods were that weak? giganotosaurus would give any sauropod a run for its money (if its in a pack) its all about hit and run (response to a different page)

  39. Mike Taylor Says:

    Lions are very strong, too. But it’s incredibly rare that they take down elephants, rhinos or hippos.

  40. Byron Quiñónez Says:

    There’s an excellent comic by Ricardo Delgado, called “Age of Reptiles”. In the last storyline, called “Ancient Egyptians”, a badass Spinosaur faces a herd of aggressive, theropod-stomping sauropods. The art is impressive, despite being a “comic”. Check it out:

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